US Toughens Stance on Ivory Coast
Words and suspensions, do they make a difference? Calls for unelected Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to leave power, vague threats of travel sanctions and freezing bank accounts of members of his government... What about economic sanctions, including forcing foreign-owned companies to stop operating in Ivory Coast? What about not recognizing Ivorian diplomats at any diplomatic mission in the world? Invitations of the Ivorian protagonists to the White House? Threats of the International Criminal Court? Hectic negotiations? Seeking Nigeria's help? Sending Obasanjo in? What real levers do the United States have to make Laurent Gbagbo actually leave power?
So far, the "international community" has helped create an awkward tie in Ivory Coast, helping freeze the conflict and leaving the country divided in two, first in late 2002, and then in 2004, both times with French intervention and US support of those actions. Compaore and Gaddafi have both played murky roles as usual. The only people power march attempt way back in 2003 was quickly squashed and turned into a massacre. Expensive voting produced Ouattara as the winner of an Ivory Coast if you include its north but so far president of just his Golf Hotel compound, and rebels still in control of the north as they have been since 2002, with a little coffee, cotton, gold, and embargoed diamonds, but not the pineapple, coconuts, cocoa, oil and direct port access. By the way, some of the fiercest battles in the Ivorian conflict were fought by Liberian rebels and the French foreign legion over the route to the San Pedro port in the side wild west conflict. This has often been ignored by many outside media, who always bring up the initial north/south war (was it a coup attempt or northern soldiers retreating? who killed former military ruler Robert Guei and did that killing precipitate events or follow them?), also forgetting the brief Ivory Coast/France war on Ivorian soil in 2004.
Without furter ado, now that I've had my say here is transcript from today's State Department briefing ...
*QUESTION:* I have a question on Ivory Coast. The Secretary yesterday talked about this letter from President Obama warning of consequences if he did not step down. What’s in it for him if he does?
*MR. CROWLEY:* Well, as you know, the hallmark of democratic and effective governance is the peaceful transfer of power. It is something that we take for granted here in the United States, but it is by no means a certainty in other parts of the world, including in the Ivory Coast, where President Gbagbo is already five years past his designated term in office.
President Gbagbo, like others in the neighborhood in the recent past, whether it’s Guinea-Conakry here recently and other countries over the past few years, he has the opportunity to be a statesman. He has the opportunity to make a significant mark in the future of the Ivory Coast, to demonstrate that -- to the region -- that there can be peaceful transfer of power, just as there has been in other countries, including Ghana.
You look at a country like Ghana. From a courageous decision several years ago, you now have an economy that is moving forward, economic growth in that kind of country, because with that kind of political stability, that’s the climate that brings significant government support and private sector investment. Cote d’Ivoire is a country with resources, but what is absent is commitment to democracy and to the kind of stability that can make a meaningful difference in the lives of its citizens.
So the President just charted out there are two paths for the Ivory Coast: One is greater integration in the region and around the world and international cooperation; and the other is increasing isolation.
*QUESTION:* And can you just confirm whether or not the President offered him a visit to the White House? And then also, what sort of contacts have you had with President Gbagbo?
*MR. CROWLEY:* The President has sent a letter to him. Beyond that, I know that, through our ambassador, Phillip Carter, and through our intrepid assistant secretary, Johnnie Carson, we are closely monitoring the situation. I can’t point to any particular dialogue that we have had with President Gbagbo this week, except for the President’s letter.
*QUESTION:* And the Defense Consultative Talks, who from State is participating in the DCT over at the Pentagon? The Pentagon said there were some State officials participating, Flournoy and others, in the Defense Consultative Talks.
*MR. CROWLEY:* Yes, I will be happy to check on that. I don’t know.